This brownie recipe has been over fifteen years in the making.
Which sounds rather dramatic, I suppose, but it is true. I have been playing with this recipe for around sixteen years, to the point where I am not even sure what cookbook the original came from.
All I know is that one year, I decided to make brownies that tasted like an Almond Joy bar, with almonds, a creamy coconut filling and dark chocolate batter that baked up moist and fudgy.
I used a moist chocolate brownie recipe, and then made a cheesecake batter for the filling, and added almonds, almond extract and flaked coconut to the cheese mixture. When it came time to melt the chocolate for the batter, I decided that, in the case of chocolate, if some was good, more was better.
So, I put in twice as much chocolate as the recipe called for, beat the living daylights out of the batter by hand, put half of it in the pan, poured the cheese and coconut mixture on top and spread the rest of the chocolate batter over it and baked it.
I discovered several things.
One–you can put a lot more chocolate into a brownie batter than is called for without adding more flour if you essentially overbeat the batter.
Two–if you want your brownies to be fairly light, you can add a bit more baking powder than is usually called for when it comes to dense, fudgy bars.
Three–no one liked the coconut filling except me.
So, the next year when Yule baking time came around, I ditched the coconut, and instead, added Carolan’s Irish Cream liquor to the cheese layer.
That was the ticket.
Those brownies, known variously as “Irish Cream Filled Brownies,” “Barbara’s Wonderful Brownies,” and “Ohmigod, The Wicked Brownies” for years, got me several marriage proposals–and as I mentioned a few posts back, one of which I accepted. These remained basically unchanged, except for adding a little more or less flour and changing chocolate brands, over the intervening fourteen or so years.
This year, I decided to do something different with the brownies, and come up with a variation, and thus was born this particular incarnation: Chambord Souffle Brownies.
Yes, I changed out the Irish Cream for Chambord, and added raspberry preserves in a thin layer marbled with the cream cheese.
Souffle is in the title this time around, because after all of these years making and tweaking with these brownies that taste more like confections than a baked item, I realized last night that they act more like a souffle than anything else.
Which makes sense–they contain five eggs–four in the chocolate batter and one in the cheese. The eggs are well beaten with the sugar before adding the chocolate and beating well again. This process traps tiny air bubbles in the batter, which gives the incomparable light and airy mouthfeel that is characteristic of them. Then, beating well after the flour and baking powder is added continues the process of incorporating air.
As you can see from the photograph above, the finished chocolate batter looks like a thick, airy milk chocolate frosting. In fact, it uses semi-sweet chocolate, not milk–it is the air which causes the color to lighten considerably.
Once the brownies bake, they darken to their more natural color.
A few caveats about this recipe–calibrate your oven before baking them. They must bake at 350 degrees, no more and no less. Less than that, and you get a gloopy, gloppy godawful mess all over your oven, your pans and yourself. Over 350 degrees will get you a very baked outside (to the point of being way too crispy) and a severely underbaked center. If you have a convection oven, don’t use the fan (if you have a choice) the first time you bake these.
Bake them for only 45 to 50 minutes. Do not bake any longer. Yes, I know that they seem quite liquidy in the center–that is because there is very little flour in there to set up and hold everything together. Just take them out, and let them cool gradually on a wire rack on top of the stove. In fact, let them sit until morning. Walk away and forget about them until they are fully cooled. Then, come back and cut into them.
A crust forms on these, even if you follow my instructions. That is fine–it is supposed to do that. Some people who have baked these have cut the crust off and just eaten the soft, whipped interior portion. I say humbug to that–the textural differences are more appealing. What good is soft without a tiny bit of crisp to set it off? Just cut through it, and leave it in place on top of the brownies. It will crackle into a lovely crazed topping like old pottery.
Cut these into tiny squares. This is one of the few times you will ever hear me say, “Less is more.” These are unbelievably rich, so go easy on them.
Finally, understand that as these bake, they puff up like a souffle. (Hence the name, eh?) But, as they cool, like a souffle, they sink down in the middle. That is the nature of these brownies. That is what they do. It sometimes results in something that looks less than fabulous, but I promise you, if you use a very sharp knife, and cut into tiny squares, wiping the blade between each cut with a damp towel, then a dry one, and put the brownies on a plate, they will look fine. If you are worried about what people will think–don’t cut them in front of anyone, so they cannot see them in their natural state. Cut them in the kitchen, arrange them on a platter, have coffee or espresso sitting in front of your guests, garnish the platter with perhaps whole raspberries or some mint leaves or festoons of curly ribbon, and swan out to the dining room, set it down and wait for them to taste it.
Unless you are pox-ridden and endowed with the temperament and breath of a Komodo dragon, I can almost assure you that at least one guest will propose marriage, or at least something indecent, while the others moan incoherently with their eyes rolling up in their heads.
When these inevitable offers come–and they will–do as you will with them. I can counsel you no further; I give you the recipe, and you do the rest.
But, I can tell you this.
It has been twelve years, and I am still quite happily married.
Chambord Souffle Brownies
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord liquor
12 ounces good semi sweet chocolate, chopped finely
4 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord liquor
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/3 cup raspberry preserves (I used Bon Maman brand–it is very stiff and not squishy)
Set rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 9 inch glass baking pan by lining completely with foil, allowing about three inches overhang on all sides. (Use one sheet of foil going in one direction, and then another sheet going the other way.) Carefully press the foil so it follows the shape of the pan as well as possible. Leave the overhangs standing upright. Spray the pan well with Baker’s Joy.
Beat together filling ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
Melt chocolate together with butter over a hot water bath, or in microwave. (If you use the microwave, start on thirty seconds, and take out the chocolate and stir. If it still needs more time, go in five second increments–do not burn the chocolate!) Cool to just about body temperature.
Beat together eggs, vanilla, Chambord and sugar, until pale yellow and quite frothy. Add chocolate and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Put onto high speed and beat for one minute, or until stiffened slightly, and lightened in color.
Stir flour, baking powder and espresso powder together to combine well. Sprinkle over chocolate mixture and stir in slowly, scraping down side of bowl as needed. Beat on medium speed to incorporate air–beat until mixture lightens considerably and is quite stiff and fluffy–about one and a half to two minutes.
Spread half the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan in as even a layer as possible. It will be difficult to spread so pat it down as much as possible without compressing it overmuch. Spread the cream cheese mixture over it. Dot the raspberry preserves over the cream cheese, then draw a spatula or knife through, marbling it as shown in photograph above.
Take the remaining brownie batter, and divide into fourths. Dollup each forth into a quadrant of the pan on top of the cream cheese batter, then dabbing and pressing, coax the chocolate layer to cover the cream cheese layer as much as possible.This is tricky–the chocolate is stiff and hard to work with, but it eventually will work out if you keep at it.
Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five to fifty minutes. As described above, the brownie will puff up and seem quite liquid in the middle when it is done. That is fine–that is the way it is supposed to be. Take it out, set it on a wire rack on top of the stove,. turn off the oven and let it cool completely before lifting the brownies out of the pan by using the foil as handles.
Cut into tiny pieces, keeping or discarding the thin crisp layer at the top as desired.
Serve with strong black coffee or espresso.
Cover and keep in a cool place–you can refrigerate it if you want, but most of the time, these don’t last too long around this house, so I don’t bother.
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